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Mandarin Learning Tips Blog

How To Learn A Language: Why Lectures Don’t Work

TutorMing | October 13, 2017

 Learning a new language is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Not only will it help open doors to new business opportunities, but it will give you a unique insight into a new culture. There are a million ways to learn a language, but today we’re here to explain what doesn’t work.

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How To Use The Chinese Character “才(cài)”

Jinna Wang | April 14, 2017

 “才” is one of those Chinese words with a number of different meanings. Taken as a noun, it could mean “talent,” as in “才华 (cái huá),” or “talented person,” as in “人才 (rén cái).

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What Are Chinese Homophones?

Patrick Kim | February 18, 2017

Because Chinese has only about 400 phonetic syllables, it is fairly common to encounter words with similar pronunciation, but different means and different characters (not to be confused with characters that have multiple pronunciations). In the sentence 北京就是背景, which means "Beijing is the setting,"  "Beijing" (北京 Běijīng) and "setting" (背景 bèijǐng), share the same pinyin. A speaker who has mastered the tones will have no problem hearing the difference between 北京 and 背景, but beginning learners often stumble over near homophones. The frequent occurrence of near-homophones in the Chinese language is not just something that captures the attention of beginning learners, however. Chinese homophones are a significant aspect of Chinese cultural customs, such as in the wordplay that the traditional comedic performance art crosstalk employs, and in various observances surrounding Chinese New Year 

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How To Use Chengyu (成语) Properly

Patrick Kim | February 03, 2017

Chengyu (成语 Chéngyǔ) are idiomatic phrases which usually consist of four characters. Because many chengyu originate from classical Chinese, they are most often found in written, rather than spoken language . Although many Chinese language programs include them in their textbook vocabulary, chengyu are not essential to learning functional Chinese, and studying too many of them is probably unnecessary (until you are at an advanced reading level to where you start to encounter them frequently). Chengyu are  more limited in their usage, and it isn't possible to "experiment" with using them in your own ways like it is with most other vocabulary words. However, there are interesting stories behind many of them from which you can learn Chinese culture and history, which might be why Chinese textbooks include them. 

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Differences Between Spoken And Written Chinese

Patrick Kim | January 14, 2017

In each language, spoken and written styles have their differences, especially when the written language has a long history. As China has a very long written tradition dating back to the Shang dynasty (3500-3000 years ago), the spoken language (口语 kǒuyǔ) and the written language (书面语 shūmiànyǔdiffer considerably more than in most languages. Written Chinese is much more formal than spoken Chinese, making it difficult for many Chinese learners who are able to carry on normal conversations to read a newspaper or write a business letter. Even if written Chinese isn't within the scope of your Chinese learning goals, it is useful to be able to recognize it and differentiate it from spoken language as you progress through your Chinese lessons. 

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